FAQs

What is the difference between social policy & public administration?
Social policy graduates are engaged in global, federal, state, and local government policy arenas. Their policy, research, and substantive skills are also in demand for policy creation, implementation, and evaluation in nonprofit, philanthropic, and research organizations.

Public administration graduates tend to work predominantly in local government policy settings or in policy positions within nonprofit organizations.

What is the difference between social policy and public policy?
Social policy is a subset of public policy that focuses on solving social problems such as economic and educational inequality, racial and health disparities, and other similar problems through policy. As such, social policy initiatives and outcomes actively attend to social issues of equity, equality, and adequacy.

Public policy may or may not be as focused on social problems and social issues.

What is the difference between social policy and macro social work?
Social policy is centrally focused on social change processes through policy work in multiple levels of government or in other types of organizations as noted above.

Macro social work more frequently addresses social change via an emphasis on policies, practices, and procedures within human service organizations.

What sets Penn’s MSSP program apart from other policy programs?
Penn’s one-year MSSP program is intensive, comprehensive, and practical. Penn’s MSSP graduates are in high demand in governmental and non-governmental policy settings because of these program components:

  • Intensive emphasis on research and evaluation skills, quantitative and qualitative reasoning;
  • Active instruction in oral and written communications skills by communications experts;
  • Elective opportunities in Schools across the University of Pennsylvania;
  • Opportunity to integrate global options within the School of Social Policy & Practice, across the University of Pennsylvania, and through exchanges with other universities;
  • The policy internship, which provides real-world policy work experience;
  • Highly individualized advising and attention; and
  • Supportive and broad-based MSSP, SP2, and Penn alumni networks.

What are the basic requirements for admission to the MSSP program?
Admission requires:

  • completion of a formal application for admission;
  • bachelor’s degree and grade point average that reflects strong academic ability;
  • an application essay;
  • competitive scores on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) that indicate the requisite analytic ability;
  • in the case of international students whose first language is other than English, TOEFL scores at a level appropriate for advanced graduate work;
  • three references (two academic and one employment or volunteer); and
  • A writing sample that demonstrates potential for policy analysis work. This is a product that was previously prepared and submitted. A writing sample could be: a previously submitted school written assignment, publication, brief, professional report, etc.

Institutional Code is 2926
Department Code for GRE is 5001
Department Code for TOEFL is 95

What is the application deadline?
The MSSP application and all supplemental application materials (such as letters of recommendation and test scores) should be submitted by February 1st.

What is the application fee?
The MSSP application fee is $65.00.

All on-line applications received between September 1st and December 31st will have a reduced fee and be charged $25.00.

What information is required for an application to be considered complete?
Your application is considered complete when the following have been received:

  • Application form;
  • Three letters of recommendation: one (1) work/volunteer related reference and two (2) academic references.
  • Analytic scores and, where appropriate, TOEFL scores;
  • Transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate studies (including transfer and study abroad credit); and
  • Application essay.

Please Note: Transcripts reflecting more than two semesters of study at institutions based outside of the United States must be evaluated on a course-by-course basis by a third-party evaluation service such as WES or Educational Perspectives. This applies even if the studies were conducted in English and even if the transcript is printed in English. Applicants with these international transcripts should upload their university-issued transcripts into the online application and order their official, third-party evaluations sent to the School of Social Policy & Practice. Please note that these international transcripts cannot be considered official until they have been evaluated and that their respective applications cannot be reviewed until the evaluations have arrived in the Admissions Office.

Is an application interview arranged with all applicants?
It is our policy to require an interview for all applicants being considered for matriculation. This will help to ensure that you have been well informed about our program and that you have been apprised of our expectations. It also helps us to get to know you better and helps you to make informed choices.

Most interviews are in person interviews; however, when geographic distance is an issue, a Skype or telephone interview is arranged.

Who makes admission decisions? When can I expect a decision on my application?
Once the application is complete (including the interview), the Admissions Committee makes all admission decisions. The completed application file, i.e., transcripts, experience, letters of recommendation and the application statement is reviewed. You can expect a written notification in two to three weeks. If you have not heard from us, feel free to call the Admissions Office.

Do you accept transfer students into Penn’s MSSP Program
No, we do not accept transfers into the MSSP Program. We do however accept up to two university course credits for graduate level courses taken at Schools other than Penn, that are consistent with the course requirements for the MSSP Program. To receive credit for outside courses, students need to make a request in writing. Application for credit for work completed at schools other than Penn must be made in writing to the Faculty Director of the MSSP Program. The written request should include a copy of the course syllabus, the final paper and grade for review by the faculty.

Is there a deposit fee?
Yes. The fee is $300.00 payable after notification of acceptance. Your acceptance letter will tell you the date by which this fee is expected. This deposit fee is applied to your bill upon matriculation. It is not refundable if you do not matriculate.

For complete information covering all SP2 programs, please visit the Financing Your Education section.

Does the School offer a part-time program?
Yes; a part-time program is offered for the MSSP program (there is not a part-time option for the MSSP + DA). The part-time MSSP Program is designed for students who have chosen to study in the MSSP Program, but are not prepared to matriculate on a full-time basis. Participants in the part-time program must meet the same admission requirements as those for full-time students. Part-time students will adhere to all of the program requirements on a part-time basis. The preferred course load for a part-time student is two courses per semester.

Students enrolled in the part-time MSSP program must be able to attend classes held during the day, and to complete the Capstone seminar and internship as the final required courses.

Students admitted to this program are assisted by an advisor who will assist in developing individualized academic plans.

Are transfers allowed from the MSSP program to the MSSP + DA program?
No, transfers are not allowed between programs. Each program requires a separate application and follows a distinct curriculum configuration.

How many courses do you take each semester?
Full-time students take five courses a semester for two semesters. Each class in SP2 meets one day a week. The Capstone Seminar takes place during the Spring Semester and Summer Session I. The Policy Internship generally takes place during Summer Session I.

The preferred course load for a part-time student is two courses per semester.

What are the joint/dual degree programs?
Penn School of Social Policy and Practice offers the following dual degree programs:

  • MSSP/Master of Social Work (MSW)
  • MSSP/Master of Public Administration (MPA)
  • MSSP/Master of Public Health (MPH)
  • MSSP/Juris Doctorate (JD)
  • Submatriculation MSSP/Bachelor of Arts (BA)

A separate application to each school is required. Acceptance into the MSSP program is not confirmation of your acceptance into any one of the joint degree programs. In other words, if you apply for a joint degree, you are independently accepted (or not accepted) by each school. Students in the MSSP + DA program are not eligible for dual degrees.

What is the grading system at the Penn School of Social Policy and Practice (SP2)?
SP2 uses the system of letter grade evaluation that is used by other M.A. and PhD programs at the University. A cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 or above is required for MSSP graduation.

Does the School provide academic advising?
Yes. Each student is assigned an advisor who helps the student make the maximum use of the School and University’s resources for a rich academic experience.

How are Social Policy Internships arranged?
The internship placement process begins in the spring semester.  Incoming students are asked to complete placement information during the first semester of the program. The placement information form will help the Internship Coordinator identify a setting that will advance the student’s study and integration of theory and practice. The placement form, along with the personal statement and admissions interview, will be reviewed by the Internship Coordinator and the Associate Director of the MSSP Program. Each student has the opportunity, and is encouraged, to participate in the selection of the placement through dialogue with the Internship Coordinator and Associate Director and an interview at his/her potential internship before it begins. (This can be a phone interview.)

How much time is spent in the Internship?
The policy internship consists of a minimum commitment of 150 hours.

What are the Internship requirements for part –time students?
Part-time MSSP students must fulfill the same Internship requirements as full-time students.

For more information, please visit the MS in Social Policy Internship page.

Questions about the program? Contact Associate Director of the MSSP Program Azahara Palomeque at 215.573.4977 or azaharap@upenn.edu.